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Sunday, August 11, 2013

Cartagena and Mar Menor

One of the fun aspects to living on the Costa Blanca is that there are several low-cost day bus trips to various sites in the area. We were ready for a day out one Thursday recently, so we signed up to go to Cartagena and Mar Menor. We had been before to Cartagena, an old port city about an hour south of us; but for some reason we had never been to the inland lake, Mar Menor, that stretches near the coast between us and Cartagena.

We hopped on the bus at 9:30. Of course we made a number of stops on the way south to pick up other tourists out for the day, so it was almost 11:00 by the time we rolled into the port area of Cartagena. That didn't matter to us, as we were most interested in the train ride to Mar Menor, and for that, we were told, we did not have to appear again until 2:45. A nice amount of time for strolling through the old part of the city, having a special lunch, and relaxing, we thought.

One of the first things we saw was the huge ceramic plaque pictured above, which depicts the two thousand year history of Cartagena, or Carthage as it was called in the Roman times. In fact, the first date is 227 a.C. (ante Cristo, or before Christ, as we might say). At various times we walked by and around the Roman theater, which is in the process of being restored, but we didn't go in, as we had visited that before. We just looked through a few holes in the walls surrounding the area. It hadn't changed any that we could tell.

We did, however, find a few stores, and since this was the first day of August, the August sales were on. I bought a pair of black leggings, definitely out of season, and I hope I remember them next fall. We also found a delightful corner cafe bar and went inside to take advantage of the light air conditioning. We each chose a tapa, and in addition they brought bread, and we called that and a tinto de verano to drink, lunch. The president of Spain was on television; they were beaming live pictures of his questioning by the Congress in the messy financial scandal that is filling the front pages of the newspapers now. I was reading one of the newspapers that are always hanging around the cafe bars and saw that the black box recovered from the Renfe train that had derailed at high speed a few days earlier showed that the engineer (el maquinista) was talking on the phone immediately before the accident with the interventor. What is an interventor? I wondered, and since my companion didn't know, when we went to the bar to pay the bill, I asked the man behind the bar, "Quien es el interventor?" "Rajoy!" he spat out, obviously more  absorbed by the current political scandal than the train tragedy, and none too pleased with the president, either. I tried to explain that I wasn't talking about politics, but the train derailment, but something got lost in the translation, because he assumed I was asking him who his interventor was. "¡Yo!" I am, he said indignantly. I was unenlightened; we left still mystified.

Testing the water in Mar Menor.
The train trip to Mar Menor was on a local carrier, not on a Renfe train, and we did not go at high speed. Nor did we start on time--we were delayed by at least half an hour. I had brought a paper map of the area with me, so I was able to find our location and the end station on the map and follow along as we stopped at, I think, nine or more isolated stations. We were driving through rural areas, old mining towns--the bus tour operator had told us that this was a tin and silver mining area in former decades. Because of the delay (never explained) we had less time to enjoy the lakeside at the end of the run--only 45 minutes, but we all dutifully trooped out, walked to the only cafe bar in town, and sat with another tinto de verano, watching swimmers in the water and enjoying distant views of buildings on a narrow strip of land that turned upward like Cape Cod in Massachusetts, although this is called La Manga (the sleeve). There were cooling breezes, and it seemed like a perfect, lazy summer day, and I can understand why people go to La Manga. Maybe we will go again some time, but in our car.

The train ride back was made in a half hour after the train finally got there...and then we climbed on our bus and were back in Torrevieja in a little more than a half hour. Of course, there are always a lot of drop-offs after a day out, so we had missed the regular news on TV by the time we got home. I checked my regular dictionary for interventor and found that it can mean auditor, or supervisor. Or ticket collector on a train or metro, as I have found our from other dictionaries since.

Saturday, August 10, 2013


Last Sunday morning we knew that it was time to take Goldie for her last trip to the vet. She had been lethargic for a couple weeks and not eating as much as she used to, especially of the hard dry food, "crunchies," she had during our lunchtime salads and her happy hour at 6:00. We thought she was just under the weather, which was very hot. Then she started missing her sandbox and she didn't even come back to the house for lunch when I opened the can of tuna for our salads--the smell of which, or a sixth sense, had always attracted her from as far away as the other side of the street. And then Saturday we saw that her face was swollen and puffed out on one side, and we made plans to take her on her final journey on Monday morning, because events like this always become clear on the weekend, don't they?

She was worse on Sunday. She would not go outside at all, and wandered slowly around the house, looking at her old favorite spots--the middle of her dad's bed, under the desk in my office, the rug in front of the window on my side of the bed, the rug in the upstairs bathroom--but not finding any of them satisfactory for a place to rest. And occasionally she cried a short, pathetic, little peep. By chance the vet was in his office Sunday afternoon, so we packed her up in a comfortable old towel and her carrier, and drove to Guardamar to a different office that we had never been to, and we drove home two hours later without the towel and carrier, and without Goldie.

She was sixteen years old and had come to us when we lived in New Hampshire. Johannes went to the shelter and brought home Goldie, one of six kittens of a litter, then just six weeks old. He looked at several, all lined up in little cages on a shelf. But the shelf was full and there was no more room; one lone cage stood on the floor with a tiny creature in it, and that was Goldie. And there was no contest after seeing her.

Goldie loved the freedom of her house in New Hampshire and quickly learned to conquer, frighten, tolerate, or run faster than all the various types of wild life on our mountainside. She was truly queen of the mountain and she reigned there for six years. Though she loved New Hampshire, she also went on vacation every summer, to Denmark--her first overseas trip she was allowed to ride in the cabin and, since it was her first plane ride, she got the window seat. She survived getting "forgotten" by the airline once in New York and arrived by taxi 24 hours later at her destination, a tiny summer cottage outside Copenhagen. Goldie also roamed freely in the kolonihave garden community in Skovlunde. But she didn't know what was ahead of her.

For one year she commuted weekly between New Hampshire and Connecticut, being driven down and then up I-91 for four hours and bearing the frustration of actually being locked indoors on the Connecticut end of the commute. Then we sold the house in New Hampshire and moved to Indianapolis and Roquetas de Mar, Spain, moving back and forth across the Atlantic seasonally. Goldie moved with us each time, earning her frequent flyer miles and something her mom never got--a European Union passport. Sadly at both ends of these trips she had to stay indoors, because who could expect her to acclimate herself to a neighborhood so quickly for such a short time at each stretch?

Four years ago we moved to Montebello, and here she was finally able to get outside again practically whenever she wanted, as long as she stayed svelte enough to glide gracefully through the slats in the front grate. She loved it here, and while we only own one house, she owned three properties--one on the corner and one across the street that were both empty until recently. She also regularly visited the house next door, because it was only used from time to time as a vacation place by its owners, so why shouldn't she? She jumped the balustrade from our property and then sidled through their grates and would sometimes stay for hours. She was never bothered by the many dogs around her, and she learned to coexist with one neighborhood cat as long as it didn't come too close.

She woke us every morning at 6:00, she entertained us at lunchtime with her "catch the crunchie" game, and she came in most nights at 6:00 and enjoyed her happy hour crunchies as we sat through the evening news, and then at some point in the evening she would disappear to a bed or a rug and sleep until early the next morning.

She gave us many hours of enjoyment, and she made this house in Spain her home, and our home, and we will miss her for a very long time to come.

Thanks to our many friends who have sent understanding and comforting words to us in our sorrow.